Caryl Smith Gilbert On Fostering Leadership And USC's Future

Cory sat down with University of Southern California Director of Track and Field Caryl Smith Gilbert recently to talk leadership in a time of difficulty, how her athlete's have responded in the face of injustice and just what USC's future looks like in the next few years with a strong recruiting class. In recent days, track and field athletes at the University of Southern California have developed a black student-athlete association in order to "take action and have our voices heard," Smith Gilbert said. "They wanted to come together. [USC senior] Anna Cockrell decided she wanted to lead something and get a movement started. So we held the meeting and we got support from our adminstration." 

Interview Run Of Show: 

  • Caryl Smith Gilbert on how her athletes have responded in the face of injustice [2:00]
  • Athletes showing their leadership beyond track and field [5:10]
  • On how previous experience has helped shape Smith Gilbert's career [7:00]
  • On what Caryl felt USC was capable of for the 2020 season [9:15]
  • Caryl on her motivations as a coach after USC came up short in 2019 [11:00]
  • On what Caryl wants from a recruit at USC, and how recruiting has changed recently [12:00]
  • On USC's incredible Class of 2020 [14:20]
  • On the Class of 2020's versatility [15:30]
  • Recently recruited talent on the men's side [18:40]
  • On evaluating juniors despite a missed high school season [19:50]
  • On Caryl's high school recruitment in the mid 80s [21:15]
  • Caryl talks about first start in coaching leading her HS alma mater [22:45]
  • On defining her passion and love for track and field [24:20]

Helpful Quotes: 

On fostering leadership in the face of adversity...

We are right now in the middle of -- not me but the student-athletes -- are creating their mission statement and they're going to move forward with taking action and getting everyone on board with -- and it's not just for black student-athetes. Any student-athlete who that would like to be a part will be a part of it. We have some student-athletes who are protesting. Some who are posting. Some who are writing to senators. Some who are doing things however they want to do it. I think it's very important that we support them. This generation is going to have to be the generation that has to make a change, and if not now, then when? What are we waiting for? We have to be the adults that support this generation and this movement and I'm very proud of these young people, because they're not giving up. They're doing things that need to be done to make change. 

On young student-athlete's voices being heard...

Right now their voice needs to be heard. It's our job to let them know that we care about them. And their lives, more than them just being student-athletes. Athletics is secondary to who they are. They become student-athletes because of the talent they have, right -- we bring them in for their talent. But they're there to get their education. And because they're educated, they're able to go out and make a better life for themselves. So this is part of that, and this is very important, this is more important than what they do athletically. 

On the Class of 2020's versatility...

We actually look for that. One reason is because USC is $80,000 a year. Private school, in state or out. $80,000. It's very important for us to find athletes that can do more than one event. We look for that and we actually identify that and go and try and find it. We need people that can do more than one event because we typically have to give full scholarships to the people we give scholarships to. ...that's why we recruit those types of people who can do more than one event. 

Young talent for USC on the men's side...

We were looking forward to seeing that outdoors this year in 2020. That didn't happen. So next year, with the group that we have coming in, we're pretty excited to see where that goes with Zach Shinnick, Brian Herron, Nic Ramey, Ashton Allen, Eric Allen. So we should have a very good 400 group again next year. 

On defining her passion and love for track and field...

It's the same. I love it. I tell my athletes. You have to love it. Track and field isn 't something that you can do 50-, 75-, 85-, 95-percent. If you're not 100-percent all-in in track and field, it will expose you. You have to be dedicated and you have to be willing to give 100-percent. You have to be able to work hard every single day. Track and field is not a sport. Track and field is a lifestyle. You don't get a break. 

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